Your immune system is an advanced, strong, complex network of molecules, cells, and organs working to protect the body from invasion. It’s pretty badass if you ask me and it works to keep us alive, whether we’re under attack from an infection or something a little tricker. Your immune system is beyond simple and is made of many moving parts. Now, you could go about your life doing practically nothing nutritionally and still have a working immune system, its that resilient. However, over time, stress and nutritional choices can have a major impact on immune factors such as inflammation, reducing the performance of your immune system.
There are quite a few foods you can eat to help boost the immune system. Garlic is certainly one of them. The sulfuric acid compounds in garlic are strong enough to eliminate bacteria and infections and studies show that garlic consumption may reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. Medicinal mushrooms are another key food for warding off sicknesses because they are potent immune system boosters. The Shiitake, Reishi, and Maitake mushroom stimulate the immune system, build up resistance to viruses, and block tumor formation. The ABM mushroom (Agaricus Blazel Murill) is clinically the strongest cancer-fighting and immune-balancing mushroom available. Ginger is another key food in the fight against infections. It is also known for its anti-inflammatory responses. Moderate exercise, around 30 to 45 minutes daily, has also been proven to increase immune function.
Aside from certain foods and adequate exercise, sleep is another key component in immune system support. Poor sleep interferes with immune function, multiplies the chances of getting sick, decreases longevity, and drastically affects the body’s ability to fight cancer. Fewer than seven hours of sleep per night is a great disservice to your health. Along with certain foods, exercise and ideal levels of sleep, there are also several supplements you can take regularly to help keep your immune system in tip-top shape. I make sure to take probiotics, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and vitamin C consistently, but when I feel a cold or flu coming on I add in echinacea/goldenseal, bio-active silver, astragalus, and oregano oil. Here are my absolute favorite immune system-boosting supplements.
Elderberry is rich in anthocyanin, which is the flavonoid that gives berries their dark purple, blue, and red colors. This antioxidant can help support the immune system as well as stave off diabetes, cancer, inflammation, obesity, and heart disease. Elderberries have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to support the immune system and to remedy colds and fight infection naturally. Further Food’s Elderberry Soothing Syrup is my most trusted elderberry supplement. It is the brand I take myself and recommend to my clients. Along with anthocyanin-rich European Haschberg elderberries, this syrup is made with cinnamon, cloves, and honey. A teaspoon of Further Food Elderberry Soothing Syrup not only tastes delicious in my evening cup of tea, it also contains a high dose of vitamin C, which is best known for its natural ability to bolster the body’s immune response.
This powerful immune-supporting herb helps fight colds and supports ongoing immune function. Research suggests that taking echinacea while you are well may reduce your chances of obtaining a sickness. But even more interesting, a study done in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine indicated that echinacea showed its maximal benefits on reoccurring illnesses. Echinacea is a great anti-inflammatory and can stimulate some vital immune cells to help you fight off disease. Nature’s Answer has a fantastic liquid echinacea supplement that is mixed with goldenseal – another key player in the immune-balancing game. You can take as directed until you feel better, but don’t take for long periods of time.
A systemic antimicrobial, bioactive silver is capable of disabling the function of bacteria without posing a threat to the human body. The silver interacts with the cell membrane of microbes and can disrupt its protein coding. It prevents bacteria from adequately building DNA and reproducing. Bio-active silver has smaller particles than other forms of silver, so it is easier for your body to absorb. It is one of my first go-to’s if I feel something icky coming on and I always take it with me when traveling. Sovereign is my favorite brand for bio-active silver. You can take as directed ongoing.
If you follow my work, you already know that I am obsessed with probiotics. They support the gut microbiome, which can have a positive effect on many different aspects of health. But did you know that immune system function was one of those benefits? Approximately 70-80% of your immune system lives in your gut. The addition of probiotics increases defense against exposure to bad bacteria and illness-causing germs. A lack of good bacteria leaves you susceptible to colds, flu, infections, and even more serious illnesses. My favorite probiotic is currently Genuine Health 50 billion. I recommend 100 Billion ongoing.
It has a funny name, but this seemingly magical root is nothing to laugh at. Astragalus is an age-old immune remedy, used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to help the body stave off disease. It is high in antioxidants and has some powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It has even been known to protect the body from gastrointestinal inflammation and various cancers. Nature’s Answer has a high-quality astragalus liquid – and it is alcohol-free! You can take as directed until you feel better.
Zinc is super effective for fighting colds and keeping the immune system strong. Zinc is involved in so many functions of the body. Zinc plays an important role in maintaining healthy stomach acid levels as well as maintaining the lining of the gut, which plays a big part in immune function. Zinc helps immune cells, like macrophages, function. Macrophages are responsible for literally “swallowing” foreign pathogens. Some over-the-counter meds note zinc as their main ingredient, but many of them are often loaded with sugar. I recommend looking for a high-quality zinc supplement that contains no fillers or sugar. Eidon Ionized Zinc Concentrate is my favorite zinc supplement. You can take 1 dropper 2x/day ongoing and if you are feeling sick take 2 droppers 2x/day.
Lysine is another antiviral – lots of people use it to stave off cold sores, but it is also smart to take it at a time when a virus is running rampant. I recommend taking 2,000 ongoing and if you are feeling sick up to 4,000 mg of Lysine per day and Pure Encapsulations is a brand that I have trusted for a long time.
This is probably the most expected immunity supplement on the list. Vitamin C is the oldest trick in the book when it comes to prepping and preventing the health pitfalls that come with the season changes (and sicknesses in general!). It is very safe, almost impossible to overdo, and relatively affordable. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and is known to fight everything from the common cold to cancer. It helps boost the immune system’s ability to fight pathogens and is an absolute must-have for anyone who has weakened immunity. I use liposomal vitamin C because it is fast absorbing and Quicksilver is my favorite brand.
This is one vitamin that many people assume they get enough of via the sun, but they could not be more wrong. Most people have levels of Vitamin D that are far lower than ideal. It has been clinically tested to reduce the risk of 17 different types of cancer. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to auto-immune disorders and is directly correlated to cancer deaths. The vitamin helps kill viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Sunshine is still your best source of Vitamin D, I recommend 20-30 minutes a day in direct sun with exposed skin (early morning or late afternoon are great times). But for people who are unable to get outside in the sun, Thorne and Pure Encapsulations Vitamin D 5000 IU is a fantastic supplement.
Another immune-boosting herb, oregano, has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-parasite properties. Research shows that the main compounds in oregano that are responsible for its immune-balancing function include carvacrol and thymol. I love Gaia’s Oil of Oregano. You can take as directed until you feel better, but don’t take for long periods of time.
Monolaurin is derived from lauric acid. It is found in a mother’s breast milk and it is what babies use to fight off infections. Not only is it an antiviral, but it is also antibacterial and anti-fungal too. It is super potent so if you feel a sickness coming on you should definitely consider taking some of this stuff. You can take 2 – 3 600 mg capsules 2x/day when you start feeling sick until you feel better.
Remember, supplements are just that – supplements. They are most effective when taken on top of a base consisting of a healthy diet and a balanced lifestyle that includes adequate rest and exercise. If you are interested in strengthening your immune system as much as possible and getting even more supplement recommendations, I highly recommend checking out my new 7-Day RESET cleanse!